4 Common Online Scams Targeting Real Estate Agents
In 2018 alone, 11,300 victims reported real estate or rental fraud, resulting in more than $149 million in losses, according to data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Internet Crime Complaint Center. With this sad truth of the matter - it’s important to be constantly on the lookout for scams. Here are four common types of online scams to be aware of:
Email Hacking To Clients
As real estate agents, we exchange emails from the mundane, to the extremely important. Hackers know to wait for the important moment when you are going to tell your clients where and how to send money for their down payment, etc. and tell your clients where to send their money, ultimately going to the scammer.
How to avoid? ALWAYS send important documents via certified email and discuss with your clients ahead of time that you will ONLY send them information through your one professional email address. It’s helpful to also discuss in person what the exchange of money will look like so that your agents have a heads up of what's to come (as opposed to their only interaction with the instructions being in a single email). It is also helpful to inform them that email scamming happens and to keep their eye out for anything that looks different in an email and to call YOU if there is any doubt at any point. It is important for both sides to be on the lookout.
Fake “Potential” Clients
Scammers are smart, and they know how to get a real estate agent excited: a potential client. They’ve figured out that if they can email you as a potential client and get you to click on a link, they can easily download whatever malware or virus they need to on your own computer unsuspectingly.
How to avoid? Because this is a more general cybersecurity breach, most of the avoidance tactics align with “best cybersecurity” practices that you should already be doing. Make sure you have unique, two-step verification passwords, use secure wifi, and use a third party security protection on your computer.
Advertising scammers know that real estate agents are always on the lookout for a good advertising deal. Some scammers out there base their scam off of luring agents in with cheap advertising prices or excellent opportunities only to take your money with no advertising at all.
How to avoid? A good rule of thumb is to be very suspicious if anyone reaches out to you about an advertising deal in general. Always start an advertising deal by reaching out yourself to a number or email that the opportunity you know of has and don’t trust someone via email.
There are so many people involved in the home buying process that it is easy to lose track of, or not know exactly who you are dealing with. People can pretend they are someone you would typically need to work with through the buying process and get access to everything on your end via malware and personal information.
How to avoid? If you receive an email from a broker, lawyer, really anyone you aren’t directly introduced to or have knowledge of, ask to set up a quick meetup over coffee, video call, or at least call a fellow agent to cross check. In addition, this has also been known to happen to real estate agents themselves where someone is using your identity to get in contact with hundreds of others. If anyone ever mentions they received something from you that you don’t recall - it’s definitely worth the moment to look into! It is NOT worth getting your reputation ruined over an internet scam with (literally) your name all over it.